Most Expensive Mistakes in all History - Part 2
Some mistakes are more expensive than others. Let's take a look at some of the most expensive mistakes in history.Money
One small slip-up can cause a catastrophic fallout like no other. Following on from part 1, here are some more monumentally expensive mistakes that will go down in history for all the wrong reasons.
10. Superman’s Mustache
Cinema audiences may have noticed something strange about Henry Cavill’s performance as Clark Kent aka Superman in the 2017 movie Justice League. Critics quickly began talking about the actor's haphazardly blurry upper lip which made Superman look perplexingly non-human in various close-up shots throughout the film.
As it turns out, this unnerving facial deformity was actually the result of an embarrassing and costly mistake, especially considering Justice League ended up being the lowest-grossing movie in the DC Extended Universe.
After filming wrapped, Warner Bros realized they needed to schedule some urgent reshoots for extra scenes, but there was one small problem - Cavill was already filming for Mission: Impossible 6, and he’d grown a big mustache especially for it.
Despite Warner Bros’ arguing how much easier it would be to add a virtual mustache to the actor for Mission Impossible than remove it for Justice League, and even offering to pay for the work themselves, Paramount banned Cavill from shaving his facial hair.
With no other option, VFX artists had to painstakingly remove the ‘stache scene-by-scene, which, along with the pay-out of organising the reshoots, ended up costing a whopping $25 million. That's a hefty fine to pay for just one mustache!
9. Lottery Loss
Most people can only dream about winning the lottery, but for one anonymous pensioner in Coventry, England that dream very nearly became a reality. In October 2010, the EuroMillions jackpot was worth a staggering $145 million, the biggest lottery prize in British history thus far, and hopeful ticket holders eagerly waited for their numbers to come up.
After the announcement on October 8th over 1000 people submitted claims that they were the possible winners, including a 70-year-old woman who came forward to confess that her husband might’ve thrown away her winning ticket. She claimed that she played the lottery every week and always wrote down her numbers on a notepad before passing the ticket to her husband for safekeeping.
After hearing speculation that the winning ticket was purchased in Coventry she checked her numbers and couldn’t believe her luck, until she realized the ticket was nowhere to be seen.
The discarded winnings would’ve made her the 589th richest person in Britain, ranking higher than Phil Collins and David Bowie before his death, making this one costly mistake. After coming to terms with the unfortunate situation the pensioner said she had forgiven her husband of 50 years, but I’m sure he won’t be taking the trash out ever again.
8. Splendid China
Successful theme parks can be total moneymaking machines, but Florida’s ‘Splendid China’ park proved that it’s not easy getting a brand-new attraction off the ground. This 75-acre model replica park in Citrus Ridge near Orlando cost $100 million to build and was intended as a companion to Splendid China theme park in Shenzen, China; but it ended up being a cash-devouring graveyard instead.
After opening to some 3.5 million visitors in 1993 the Chinese Government bought out its American partners to gain full ownership of the park, with property developer Josephine Chen, who came up with the idea, at the helm.
Soon after, concerns arose that the park was being used as a gateway for communist propaganda and Americans started losing interest. Protests also began regarding the recreation of religious exhibits that were not of Chinese origin, like the Potala Palace built by the Tibetan people which was home to successive Dalai Lamas since 1645.
In November 1995, Florida’s Pinellas County school board voted to ban trips to the park, and even a sudden name-change to ‘Chinatown’ in 1996 couldn’t save it. By 1999, it was reported that Splendid China had lost $9 million each year, about $200 million in total, and its inevitable closure was set for December 31, 2003.
The site went up for sale at just $30 million in 2009 but suffered brutal looting and vandalism which left it completely barren. Demolition officially began in May 2013, and by March 2016 the park was gone completely.
7. Cerro Grande Fire
On May 10th, 2000, a wildfire known as the Cerro Grande Fire became one of the most destructive events the state of New Mexico has ever seen.
The blaze was intended as a deliberate controlled burn during a 10-year plan to protect the Bandelier National Monument and reduce natural fire hazards in its surrounding areas. Drought conditions in the late 1990s made the area tinder-dry and subject to possible ignition under unexpected circumstances like a lightning strike, so Bandelier officials hoped the controlled burn would thin the coniferous and grassy areas.
Unfortunately, they didn’t account for high winds on the Cerro Grande summit where the fire was started, and the blaze quickly ripped through 150,000 acres of land destroying 400 homes and damaging many other structures including the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Thankfully no lives were lost, but after multiple evacuations, the fire was not declared fully extinguished until 20th July, by which point the damage was irreversible. Officials were faced with harsh criticism for proceeding with the fire despite the contradictory weather conditions, and the US General Accounting Office has estimated that the total damages cost around $1 billion.
6. Spirit of Kansas Crash
The B-2 Stealth Bomber is an impressive piece of equipment, but on February 23rd, 2008 the Spirit of Kansas 89-0127 became the first of its kind to spectacularly crash just moments after taking off outside Guam.
The US Airforce bomber had already logged over 5,100 flight hours when it was suddenly bought down over the runway, but the state-of-the-art warplane might not have ended up a fiery wreck had it been for one simple fix.
Reports found that the cause of the crash was a few drops of rainwater in three of the 24 air-pressure sensors that feed data to the flight control system, which distorted the plane’s positioning. Once the moisture evaporated, the crew’s recalibrated sensors were providing false data on airspeed and pressure which measure altitude, causing the aircraft to stall.
During previous B-2 deployments to humid Guam where planes are mostly stored outside, maintenance personnel had reportedly used an unofficial fix by turning on the heat and boiling off moisture before calibration. If this bootleg procedure had been widely communicated, the first crash in the stealth bomber's 19-year flying history might’ve been avoided.
Thankfully the two pilots ejected in time, but the $1.4 billion warplane was reduced to scrap metal in minutes, making this one costly human error.
5. Costa Concordia Disaster
On January 13th, 2012 the Italian Costa Concordia ship set sail for a week’s cruise around the Mediterranean Sea, but it was tragically destined to become one of the most expensive marine losses in history.
A few hours after leaving Civitavecchia, the captain Francesco Schettino deviated from the standard course by ordering a maritime ‘salute’ while approaching the island of Giglio, an area known for rocky outcrops.
When dangerous terrain became visible Schettino ordered a change in course, but communication issues with the Indonesian helmsman meant the ship was steered in the wrong direction.
In the 13 seconds it took to rectify, the ship ran aground with 1,023 crew members and 3,206 passengers on board, suffering a 174-foot tear on the left port side and flooding in 5 key areas before capsizing and killing 32 people.
An operation to ‘refloat’ and free the ship from the huge rocks it was embedded in began in September 2013, costing a record-breaking $1.2 billion. The captain and 4 other crew members were tried for misconduct and Schettino was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his actions.
The total cost of the disaster is now an estimated $2 billion, more than three times the $612million it cost to build, which included victim’s compensation, lawsuits of $93 million, salvage costs, and $100 million for the ship to be broken into scrap metal.
4. New Bay Bridge
When you’re redesigning something as monumental as a bridge disputes are bound to happen, but the debacle over the New Bay Bridge in California ended up taking over a decade longer and several billion dollars more than the original cost to build.
After the Eastern section of the original Bay Bridge collapsed following the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and another quake in 1999, the California Department of Transportation announced the state would spend 7 years replacing it.
The original state-funded proposal of $1.3 billion was for a simple skyway like California’s San Mateo bridge, but politicians and residents called for a more impressive Golden-Gate-style structure. The mayors of San Francisco and Oakland then began contesting the alignment of the bridge on either side, delaying the process for a further two years.
Eventually, a design was agreed on and the date of unveiling was set for 2004, but construction still hadn’t started in 2001 and the cost was already up to $2.6 billion. By 2004 steel prices were up 50% and the booming economy pushed the cost to $5.6 billion, and after going back to the drawing board toll prices were raised to $5 to compensate.
Despite further complications including a $25 million fix on shoddy bolts, the New Bay Bridge eventually opened in 2013 with a final price tag of $6.5 billion – a 2,500% overrun from earliest talks of some $250 million.
3. Australia’s NBN Rollout
In the modern first world, working Wi-Fi is something most people take for granted, but Australians may have a new-found relationship with the pitfalls of digital connectivity after widespread controversy over botched plans to install nationwide broadband.
In 2009, the government-funded National Broadband Network company vowed to deploy future-proofed network connectivity across the country by 2020, but 10 years on it has been met with many complications and criticisms.
Constant delays and desperate attempts to reassess the possibility of supplying terrestrial fiber network coverage to 93% of Australian premises caused negative media attention and public outcry.
As the 6th largest country in the world with a relatively sparse population of just 24.6 million, the reality of bridging the digital divide where population density is just 3 people per km² is hard to envision.
As a result, project costs jumped from an estimated $29.5 billion before the 2013 federal election to some $46 billion afterwards, and by late 2018 the estimated final cost was a staggering $51 billion. The worst part? Australia still ranks only around 60 in the world for broadband connectivity. Sometimes it’s best to quit while you’re ahead.
2. Ron Wayne’s Apple Shares
Most people would kill for a 10% share in Apple nowadays, but one man threw away his golden ticket to wealth beyond his wildest dreams for just $800. You’ve probably heard of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, but there was once a little-known third founder of Apple, Ron Wayne, who joined the former young entrepreneurs in 1976 to oversee mechanical engineering and documentation; he even penned the original logo.
In return, he gained a 10 percent stake in the business, but after becoming concerned about possible debts falling on him he decided to sell his share less than two weeks after drawing up his own contract.
Although Wayne has claimed that he doesn’t regret the potential screw-up, his original share of the company would have been worth $120 billion in 2019, making him the richest man in the world according to the 2019 Forbes rich list.
By the end of 2019, the global tech giant was valued at $1.2 trillion, so even a small slice of the remarkable company could be life-altering. One thing Wayne does regret, though, is not holding onto his original contract, which he also sold for $500 in the ‘90s. Unfortunately for him, the same contract sold at a Sotheby’s auction in 2011 for a whopping $1.6 million.
1. Chernobyl Disaster
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 is undoubtedly the biggest socio-economic accident in peacetime history, and the death toll including those who died from cancer years later is now expected to be over 1 million.
On 26th April the soviet government ordered the operators of Chernobyl to keep the reactor at full power after initially asking them to slow it down to low for a test, and a series of complications and design faults in the control rods being handled set off a devastating chain reaction.
As high pressure blew the lid off the reactor, the rods ignited into a graphite fire which spewed radioactive molten fuel into the open air, instantly costing the lives of 30 immediate responders.
The fire took over a week to extinguish, and the repercussions are still being felt today. Recently, a huge gripping claw in Pripyat used to lift graphite rods after the disaster has been declared so radioactive that it could kill with a single touch.
Although such massive losses are hard to account for, a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that the disaster, which was caused by misconduct and faulty equipment, cost over $235 billion.
This figure includes clean-up costs, social benefits to 7 million survivors and costs of vacated agricultural and logging land, while total spending from Ukraine after the dissolution of the Soviet Union set the country back at least a decade in economic development.
I hope you were amazed at these most expensive mistakes in all of history. You might also want to read part 1 of this series! Thanks for reading!